First, the shocking news is reported. Second, others — besides the shooter — are blamed for inciting the violence. And third, politicians rush in to try and fix it so this type of tragedy will never happen again.
Already by Saturday night, the blame game had begun in the media and on the Internet. Did former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin help push the shooter into action with her bull's-eye on the map of Giffords' congressional district and her admonition "Don't retreat, reload"?
What about all the vitriol on conservative talk radio that painted liberals such as Giffords as a danger to America? And even in political campaigns, aren't candidates and their backers using rhetoric so bitter that it could whip followers into a killing frenzy?
Stop it already.
In the Giffords shooting, the alleged gunman appears to be a mentally unhinged young man. He's to blame for the crimes and no one else. I don't buy that others are responsible for creating an environment that fostered the shooting. You've had murderous nutcases long before Palin and Rush Limbaugh.
Also, America hardly has a history of genial political discourse, going back to pre-Revolutionary days. The country's early newspapers called political foes "tools of a baboon," "frog-eating, man-eating, blood-drinking cannibals" and "a sort of flies, that naturally settle on the excremental and corrupted parts of the body politic."
In last fall's local city council elections, voters seemed shocked by dirty campaign tactics that smeared Newport Beach's conservative Rush Hill as a lackey for the police and firefighter unions and Costa Mesa's Jim Righeimer as a police-hating bully bent on reshaping the city in his image.